Sep 5, 2014, Mark Harden, News Director-Denver Business Journal
Customers enter a Hollister Co. store, owned by Abercrombie & Fitch Co., featuring a step-up entrance.
A Denver federal judge’s ruling that Hollister Co. stores discriminated against people in wheelchairs has been partially overturned by a three-judge appellate panel.
The stores are operated by New Albany, Ohio-based Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF).
U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel in Denver, ruling on a lawsuit brought against Abercrombie, had found that the front-porch-style step-up entrances at 231 of the Hollister youth-fashion chain’s stores violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because they barred wheelchair access.
Last August, Daniel ordered the Hollister stores— representing about 40 percent of its U.S. locations — to reconfigure their wheelchair-unfriendly entrances by the end of 2016.
But The Denver Post’s Kirk Mitchell reports that a three-judge panel of 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges decided 2-1 this week that the entrances do not violate the ADA.
Attorneys for the clothier had argued that side entrances are provided for disabled customers at Hollister stores with non-accessible main entrances, although the lawsuit plaintiffs said the separate entrances were humiliating to use.
The appellate panel did not throw out the class-action suit, which it sent back to Wiley for further consideration.
A representative of the plaintiffs told The Post that they likely would appeal the latest ruling.
One plaintiff in the class-action case is Denver policy analyst Julie Farrar, who previously said she couldn’t access the main entrance of a Denver-area Hollister store in her wheelchair.
The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition’s legal program and the Denver-based Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center helped to represent plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.
Hollister has four stores in Colorado, including outlets at the Park Meadows and FlatIron Crossing malls, according to its website.
Abercrombie & Fitch — which started out in 1892 as a New York outdoor gear retailer — operates more than 800 stores in the U.S. across its various brands and about 160 stores outside of the United States. What is now L Brands Inc. (NYSE: LB, formerly Limited Brands, parent of the Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works chains) bought A&F in 1988, then took it public as a separate company in 1996.